The decision may cause cutbacks, according to the company's statement.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Trumbull County commissioners have unanimously denied a tax break for Taylor Steel to expand operations in Lordstown with some workers and equipment from its Niles plant.
"Now, we have to reconsider all of that," said Mark Whitling, the company's vice president of finance.
Allan Knapp, planning commission director, said this is only the second time Trumbull County commissioners have denied a tax abatement since the program began in 1983. The only other denial was in the mid-1990s.
The company's plans pitted city officials in Niles, angry at losing jobs in their community, against those in Lordstown, who were happy to get more jobs. The Niles plant is to be closed by March 31.
"It is just not right what they were going to do," said Joseph Angelo Jr., a county commissioner. "Shutting down the plant and not carrying the employees to the other plant."
Taylor Steel General Manager Dennis Giddings had said the 15 union workers in Niles would be considered for jobs at the nonunion Lordstown plant, but would not say if they would all be brought over. Terms of the tax abatement required the company to add 30 jobs in Lordstown.
"To this day, the employees are wondering if the company will continue their employment," Gary Steinbeck, subdistrict director of the United Steelworkers of America, said Wednesday.
The company's request that the county forgive 75 percent of the taxes it would pay for 10 years on $12.7 million investment in Lordstown was approved by the Ohio Department of Development.
"I was surprised the state approved it," Angelo said. "The intent of the tax break program is not pit two local communities against each other."
Officials in Niles were especially miffed because Taylor Steel has not paid any property or real estate taxes for the 10 years it has been there under a previous tax abatement set to expire this year.
"They got the first abatement to come and invest in the community, build, stay and maintain," said Mayor Ralph Infante.
He said the tax abatement cost Niles $1.4 million, most of which would have gone to the school district.
"It's taking advantage of the process," said Commissioner Michael O'Brien. "I'm sure the state did not intend for this to happen."
Although Infante applauded the commissioners' decision, Ron Barnhart, Lordstown's planning and zoning administrator, immediately said he regretted it.
"I just hope we do not lose Taylor Steel for the county," he said.
The company, owned by Taylor Steel of Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada, now employs 81 in Lordstown and 40 union and nonunion workers in Niles. It may still be eligible for other incentives to expand the Lordstown plant, O'Brien said.
"The commissioners' decision is a sad, anti-growth message that we are sending to our communities," Whitling said, reading from the company's prepared statement. "We will have to re-evaluate our cost and pull our cost from areas we had hoped not to touch."